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The pregnant pause: How to respond to baby news

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

“I’m pregnant!” … Two words that can make an employer cringe on the inside but smile on the outside. And even though the baby might not be kicking yet, you can be assured that pregnancy anti-discrimination laws have kicked in …

Case in Point: Sara Hillins, an account director at a Minnesota ­marketing firm, announced she was pregnant and intended to take 14 weeks of maternity leave.

Within two days, she was removed as the lead person of a company in­­dustry group.

As her maternity leave approached, Hillins asked her boss if her job would be there when she returned. He allegedly responded that “a lot of women say that they’re going to come back and they don’t, so we need to proceed like you’re not coming back.” He also allegedly told her he “wished [she would] just spend time at home with her son when he was born.”

While out on maternity leave, ­Hillins lost her job in a reduction in force. She filed a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) claim.

The company defended its actions by claiming the RIF was necessary. But the court didn’t buy the story, saying there was no proof of a business decline that legitimatized the RIF. (Hillins v. Marketing Architects, D. Minn.)

3 lessons learned … without going to court

1. Take a pregnant pause. When an employee announces she is pregnant, stop, pause and respond only with, “Congratulations!”

2. Use formula. In this case, the winning formula to minimize litigation is to let the employee go out on maternity leave and come back to the same job.

3. Don’t play peek-a-boo. Now you see your job, now you don’t. Never make comments about whether a pregnant employee should come back to work or remain at home; or the job will be there or it won’t. It’s up to the employee to decide her future. Don’t play games!

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Author: Mindy Chapman is an attorney and presi­dent of Mindy Chapman & Associates LLC. She is a master trainer and co-author of the book, Case Dismissed! Taking Your ­Har­assment Prevention Train­ing to Trial. Sign up to receive her blog postings at www.BusinessManagementDaily.com.

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